Caruso Journal: Week 3

Week 3 of my work with the Caruso Routine has gone well (Read about Week 1 and Week 2). Week 3 did not add any new exercises, but continued with the Six Notes and Lips/Mouthpiece/Horn. The basic mechanics of the exercises are starting to feel more comfortable and more or less automatic now. I’m looking forward to Week 4, which adds the Harmonic Series exercises. Rather than add these to the beginning of my daily routine, I’m going to swap out a similar pattern in my routine for these. I’m curious how they will work in the context of my regular routine. According to the suggested Practice Calendar, Weeks 4 through 8 are the same, I’m assuming to build further consistency on these basic patterns before expanding the routine further. More updates to come!

First Solos for the Horn Player: Misty, Silvery Moon by Vincenzo Bellini

This post will wrap up my First Solos for the Horn Player project, which I began back in March. It’s been a fun and productive creative outlet, and while I did not record all of the solos in the collection (to abide by Fair Use), these recordings are representative. If you don’t know First Solos for the Horn Player  by Mason Jones it’s well worth checking out, especially for undergraduate students. See the end of this post for a complete list of the recordings, with YouTube links.

For the final selection we have an aria by the early 19th-century Italian opera composer Vincenzo Bellini. This is a very brief solo, but could work well on a recital when combined with other similar compositions.

List of Recordings from First Solos for the Horn Player, Arrangements by Mason Jones)

Warm-Up Routine Based on Solo Works for Horn

As mentioned in this post, I think my Solo Training for Horn book can be used as a source of effective warm-up and daily practice routine materials. See the link below for a free sample routine drawn from a small portion of the contents in Solo Training. The exercises are based (some closely, some more loosely) on the following works:

  • Sonata, Op. 17 – Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Concerto No. 1, Hob. VIId:3 – Franz Joseph Haydn
  • Concerto, K. 495 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Morceau de Concert – Camille Saint-Saëns
  • Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70 – Robert Schumann

This brief packet addresses the traditional topics you would find in most warm-ups:

  • First notes
  • Legato/Staccato Playing
  • Scales/Arpeggios
  • High Range/Low Range
  • Lip Trills/Flexibility
  • Stopped Horn

But the bonus is that all of the exercises can be clearly related back to major solo works in the horn’s repertoire. If you’re looking for an alternative warm-up routine to add to your toolbox, feel free to download the PDF, and let me know what you think in the comments or an email.

AND, if you find this material interesting and/or useful, please do check out the entire book, available on the Mountain Peak Music website. It contains much more material than this 15-page sample, as the entire book is over 100 pages.

Download the Solo Training Warm-Up Routine


Semester Preview: Spring 2020

Our spring semester is in full swing, and we have lots of great events happening in the brass area over the next few months. Here is a representative, though not exhaustive, list.

  • February 3-4: Scott Hartman Residency Professor Hartman has been on the faculty of Yale University since 2001, and was a member of the Empire Brass for many years. He will be on our campus for a few days, holding several master classes and other sessions, culminating in a recital on February 4. The ULM brass faculty will be joining him on a couple of pieces.
  • February 17-18: Composer-in-Residence, Douglas Hedwig I first encountered the music of Douglas Hedwig through the New Music on the Bayou Festival, and have really enjoyed getting to know his many works for brass. Hedwig is a former member of the trumpet section of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and is also an accomplished composer.  My colleagues and I will be performing two large works by him during his residency (details taken from the composer’s website):
    • A Certain Slant of Light (2015): Five-movement, 17 minute work for brass quintet, organ & percussion (1 player).  Inspired by the poem by Emily Dickinson.  Commissioned by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chattanooga, TN.  Premiered on May 4, 2015.  Published by Carl Fischer Music, NYC.
    • Four Third Streams for Wind Quintet (2018).  Premiere, January 27, 2019
  • March 10: Trio Mélange Recital I really enjoy performing with this ensemble, and our recital this spring will include several new works for soprano, horn, and piano. More information in a future post!
  • March 21: Louisiana Horn Day This is the first of what we hope will become an annual event in Louisiana, to foster interest in the horn and to promote membership in the International Horn Society. In addition to a recital and master class presented by our Guest Artist (Dr. Stacie Mickens, Associate Professor of Horn at the University of North Texas), the day will also include Contributing Artist performances, exhibits, and a mass horn choir.
  • March 31: Brass Day Right on the heels of Horn Day is our annual Brass Day, which continues to be a very popular event. This year the Dallas Brass will be joining us as Guest Artists, along with a college student brass ensemble and a high school student brass ensemble. Both groups will have the opportunity to perform with the Dallas Brass on their evening concert. If you are a brass player in the Northeast Louisiana area (or beyond), you do not want to miss this free event!

In addition to the above, there will be numerous other noteworthy performances by our ULM ensembles and various regional orchestras. I hope everyone has a healthy and productive spring!

Barry Tuckwell’s Contributions to Horn Literature

Word of  Barry Tuckwell’s (1931-2020) passing spread quickly throughout the horn playing community, and was met with sadness as well as a number of heartfelt and touching reminiscences. His incredible career as an orchestral musician, soloist, and recording artist has been justifiably lauded by such diverse outlets as The New York Times  and The International Horn Society. Like Philip Farkas, Barry Tuckwell had an immeasurable impact on generations of horn players, and he will be missed greatly. I only heard him perform live once, in the late 90’s during one of his last solo tours. Like many, though, I became familiar with Tuckwell’s artistry through his numerous recordings, which span a huge range of horn literature.

His publications were also widely circulated, though some are now out of print. See the list below, as found on his Honorary Member page on the International Horn Society’s website.

  • Horn (Yehudi Menuhin Music Guides)
  • Fifty First Exercises for Horn
  • Playing the Horn; A Practical Guide
  • Great Performer’s Editions (Telemann, Beethoven, etc.)
  • Mozart Concertos for Horn

Tuckwell was also an avid proponent of new music, with an extensive catalog of works written for and because of him. The following list (with recording links where available) can be found in a chapter of Douglas Hill’s book Collected Thoughts on Teaching and Learning, Creativity, and Horn Performance (Warner Brothers Publications, 2001). The chapter is aptly titled “New Music for and Because of Barry Tuckwell,” and is well worth reading in its entirety. Here is the introduction to the chapter:

In 1996, Johnny Pherigo, editor of The Horn Call: Journal of the International Horn Society, invited me to write an article that would review the compositions written specifically for the soon-to-retire, world famous horn soloist Barry Tuckwell. A number of these wonderful compositions were favorites of mine already, so to learn of the others was a welcome opportunity. What follows is a revised version of the original, which was based upon an extensive interview with Maestro Tuckwell and a visual and, in most cases, aural review of each composition. The body of works discussed stands as representative of the finest solo horn writing of the late-twentieth century. p. 170

List of Works Composed for and Because of Barry Tuckwell ( as found in the chapter “New Music for and Because of Barry Tuckwell,” in Douglas Hill’s Collected Thoughts on Teaching and Learning, Creativity, and Horn Performance (Warner Brothers Publications, 2001)


Upcoming Performance: Crystal Kaleidoscope for Horn and Vibraphone by Ken Davies

IMG_20190320_141315964In addition to the Dana Wilson song cycle performance mentioned in my earlier post, I’ll be performing another brand new work in April at the Society of Composers, Inc. Region VI Conference at Texas A&M University—Commerce. The composition is by Ken Davies, and is entitled Crystal Kaleidoscope for horn and vibraphone. My colleague Mel Mobley and I commissioned it with assistance from the International Horn Society’s Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund. This is a fantastic initiative by the IHS, and well worth applying for and supporting! As of this writing, the fund is on hiatus from January 2019 through December 2019. Be on the lookout, however, for future funding opportunities.

Getting back to Crystal Kaleidoscope, Ken Davies is a very fine composer, and the works I’ve performed by him have been interesting and rewarding to play. The horn and vibraphone combination is pretty unique, and there are only a handful of other works in the repertoire for horn and mallet percussion, let alone this specific instrumentation. The first one that comes to mind is HornVibes: Three Duos for Horn and Vibraphone, by Verne Reynolds. For more information on this and other works for horn and mallet percussion, refer to Dr. Casey N. Maltese’s A Performance Guide of Selected Works for Horn and Mallet Percussion, D.M.A dissertation, the University of Miami, 2011. In my estimation, Crystal Kaleidoscope holds up very well when compared to the Reynolds, though it is quite different. Here is the composer’s note:

Look into the kaleidoscope. See the variously shaped colored crystals, their reflections producing continuous changing patterns. Each crystal has a unique structure, shape, and color—its own symmetrical, ordered, three-dimensional aggregation of atoms or molecules.

As the title suggests, this work is based on “crystals.” Though the sectional sub-titles may be whimsically named for gemstones, the musical crystals are pitch sets consisting of a few notes which are spun out into transformed patterns of melodic and harmonic variety. While the theorist/musicologist may want to delve into set analysis, I hope that others may simply enjoy the aural ride along the surface, letting the notes, chords, and timbres provide a worthy repeatable listening experience.

The writing is fun and challenging, but not unreasonably so, with lots of rhythmic and melodic interplay between horn and vibraphone. As the composer implies in his preface, there are some complex compositional operations at work, but the melodies and timbres are interesting enough in and of themselves without deep analysis. As I’ve found in other works by him, Ken likes to throw in periodic references to other styles such as funk and jazz. For instance, this short line for the horn in the final movement, “Crystal Collage,” has a pretty fun groove to it. Tempo is quarter note=92-104 or faster.

Davies Excerpt

If this post has piqued your interest in the music of Ken Davies, take a look at his website for a complete list of his many works. Here is a short list of works with horn, taken from his website.

  • Brain Fantasies for horn and two-channel audio
  • Sensuous Images for horn and pre-recorded soundscape
  • Waterscape for horn and digital media
  • Loose Connections – horn alone
  • Three Roads Diverged – brass trio – tpt, hrn, tbn
  • Concert Piece for Brass Quintet and Organ
  • Bayou Sketches – soprano, French horn, piano
  • Veiled Places for Woodwind Quintet

Recording Reviews: Richard Deane; Steven Cohen

I seldom post recording reviews on this site, but every once in a while I either receive a complimentary album in the mail, or hear about a project that piques my interest. To close out a series of reviews from this summer, here are two horn recordings that are well worth your time.

Mid-Century Sonatas for Horn and PianoRichard Deane, horn; Timothy Whitehead, piano

  • Halsey Stevens, Sonata for Horn and Piano (1953)
  • Paul Hindemith, Sonata für Althorn in Es und Klavier (1943/1956)
  • Bernard Heiden, Sonata for Horn and Piano (1939)
  • Paul Hindemith, Sonata für Horn und Klavier (1939)

These sonatas for horn and piano by Halsey Stevens, Paul Hindemith, and Bernard Heiden are staples in the repertoire. Deane is Associate Principal Horn in the New York Philharmonic, and served as Acting Principal for the 2017-18 season. He was previously a member of the Atlanta Symphony for many years. Though the repertoire is conventional, the extremely high caliber of the performances makes this recording special. Deane plays with a huge but focused sound. To my ear the “New York sound” has changed over the years, partially due to changes in equipment, I’m sure, but also probably as a response to the ever increasing demands of the job. Whitehead’s piano playing is equally impressive – especially in the final movement of the Hindemith E-flat Sonata – and is a fitting musical counterpart to the horn in these works.  There is not much in the way of liner notes, but there is a very nice video on YouTube with background about the project:  One other interesting note about this album is that Whitehead not only performed on piano, but did all of the recording, producing, editing, and mixing – not a small feat! The recording is both vibrant and clear, and for those who might be interested the recording equipment is listed in the liner notes.

Cruise Control: Horn Music from Five Emerging American Composers – Steven Cohen, horn; Jed Moss, piano; Scott Shinbara, percussion; Amanda Sealock, percussion

  • James Naigus, Sonata for Horn and Piano
  • Jenni Brandon, Dawn for Horn in F and Piano
  • Adam Wolf, Cruise Control for Horn, Piano and Percussion
  • Wayne Lu, Pranayama
  • Gina Gillie, Sonata for Horn and Piano

Cruise Control is a contrasting but equally interesting album by New York City freelancer Steven Cohen, and features world premiere recordings by several up and coming American composers. This project was sponsored by Siegfried’s Call, with a significant portion of the funding generated through an Indiegogo campaign. Be sure to check out the Indiegogo link for more information about the project and the commissioning process.

The music on this disc is fun and fresh, and showcases what I think the horn does best: play beautiful melodies and exhibit a variety of timbres. Cohen navigates the full range of the horn with ease and expression (using similar equipment to Richard Deane, a triple horn by Engelbert Schmid). Stylistically there is a bit of everything on this recording, from Neo-romanticism in the Sonatas by James Naigus and Gina Gillie to Minimalism and Rock in Cruise Control by Adam Wolf, and avant garde extended techniques in the works by Jenni Brandon and Wayne Lu. This recording is a musical and technical tour de force, and serves as a great resource for anyone interested in new music for the horn.

Trios for Horn, Trombone, and Tuba

k32067000000000-00-500x500A colleague from another university contacted me recently to ask for some recommendations about low brass trios (horn, trombone, tuba). Having just performed a program featuring music for this ensemble at the International Trombone Festival and the International Horn Symposium, I was interested to see what other repertoire might be out there. Based on a cursory search of my favorite online music retailers (and a few other places), here’s what turned up. It’s a more limited selection than the high brass trio, but more than I thought would be readily available. *This list only includes original works, not arrangements or transcriptions. I haven’t performed very many of these, although several of them look promising based on what I know of the composers’ other works. As I mentioned in my presentation at IHS 50, low and high brass trios are ripe for scholarship and creative activity in the form of recordings, commissions, arrangements, etc. If you have an interest in brass chamber music beyond the standard quintet, give the brass trio a serious look.

IHS 50 Report, Part 2

IMG_20180731_212023752Today was the second full day of the 50th International Horn Symposium (Read my report on Day 1 here). My schedule consisted of attending parts of several concerts and presentations, connecting and reconnecting with a few colleagues, rehearsing with my brass trio for our performance tomorrow, and buying some new music and recordings.

I started the day with a presentation by musical legend David Amram called “Fundamentals of Jazz, Blues in F” Over the years I’ve performed his Blues and Variations for Monk several times, and have also read one of his books, Vibrations. Amram is a unique and multifaceted personality, and his session turned out to be much more than just an introduction to jazz. (I also got to hear Douglas Hill play some jazz bass.)  Mr. Amram shared some inspiring words about what it means to be a musician, and to attend the “University of Hang-out-ology.” I took this to mean that one of the best ways to grow as a musician (and person) is to surround yourself with people who challenge and inspire you, and to try to learn everything you can from them – excellent advice!

Next came a visit to a few exhibitor tables to buy some sheet music, including Gina Gillie’s new Sonata for Horn, commissioned and recorded by Steven Cohen on his new album, Cruise Control. I also found a chamber work that’s been on my to-do list for a while, Simon Sargon’s “Huntsman, What Quarry?” for soprano, horn, and piano. Lastly, I picked up a copy of “Twenty Difficult Etudes for the Horn’s Middle Register” by Daniel Grabois. Looking forward to working on this new repertoire in the future.

After lunch I checked out part of the 1:00 p.m. concert, which included a preview performance of William Bolcom’s new Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano (2017), which was commissioned by Steven Gross. It was a really interesting work, not necessarily technically flashy, but with some very interesting timbres and melodies. Definitely one to keep your eye out for when it’s published.

The later afternoon consisted of rehearsing with my low brass trio for a repeat performance of the program we did at the International Trombone Festival a few weeks ago. Rehearsal went well, and we are ready for our performance on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. Afterwards I ate dinner with two colleagues, Eli Epstein and Stacie Mickens. Both are fantastic horn players and teachers, and I’m very glad to have spent some time talking with them over dinner.

The 7:30 p.m. concert was outstanding, featuring international soloist Frank Lloyd and Josh Williams, First Prize Winner in the Professional Division of the 2017 International Horn Competition of America. Their program consisted of all 20th and 21st-century works, with several that included jazz influences. Here’s a partial list of the repertoire.

David Amram, Blues and Variations for Monk for unaccompanied horn
Richard Bissill, Sic Itur Ad Astra for horn and piano
Richard Bissill, Song of a New World for horn and piano
Frank Lloyd, horn, David Mamedov, piano
Lawrence Lowe, Sonata No. 1 for horn and piano (III. Caccia)
Margaret Brouwer, SCHerZOid for solo horn
Alec Wilder, Suite for horn and piano
Amir Zaheri, Secret Winter for horn and piano
Anthony DiLorenzo, The Phoenix Sonata for horn and piano
Joshua Williams, horn, Kathia Bonna, piano


Mr. Lloyd’s playing was dazzling as usual, though he is now performing on an Alexander horn instead of an Engelbert Schmid. There were also several additions to his program: “Raptor Music,” composed for him by Douglas Hill, a virtuosic unaccompanied work featuring lots of extended techniques, and an “F Blues” from 15 Low Horn Etudes by Ricardo Matosinhos. Mr. Williams was equally stunning in his performance, ending with the epic Phoenix Sonata by Anthony DiLorenzo. This work is getting performed more and more, and it’s easy to hear why. Though challenging, it is an effective and engaging piece. One note about my experience of tonight’s concert is that I was able to watch the second half from my hotel room (while working on some other work-related tasks), as the IHS has been streaming Featured Artist concerts on Facebook live. I stumbled across this by accident, and I must have missed any publicity announcing it. It’s a fantastic service that I hope will continue at future symposia. Even if you can’t be here in Muncie, tune in for the 7:30 p.m. concerts this week where ever you are!



High School Recruiting Trip FAQ

As part of a busy month of performances, the members of Black Bayou Brass (resident faculty brass trio at ULM) presented a series of concerts at several high schools in southern Louisiana. The concerts went well, and our audiences were very eager and attentive. There are some strong instrumental music programs in that part of the state, and it was our pleasure to perform for them. After doing these kinds of performances for a few years, I’ve started to notice some commonly asked questions from students, which are compiled in this FAQ. The first two provide some background information about the group and our program from this year’s performances, but the rest are based on actual questions we’ve received from students.

  • Who are you? We are the Black Bayou Brass, the resident faculty brass ensemble in the Department of Music at The University of Louisiana at Monroe. Our current members are Alex Noppe (trumpet), James Boldin (horn), and James Layfield (trombone). (After our opening number one of us usually introduces the group and mentions a little bit about our performing and teaching duties.)
  • What pieces are you going to play? Our program varies widely depending on what repertoire we are currently preparing for upcoming recitals, but we have worked very hard over the past few years to put together an engaging, lively set of pieces for young audiences. Much of our repertoire is home-grown, having been arranged by current or former members of the ensemble. For this tour we performed the following:
    • A Philharmonic Fanfare, Eric Ewazen
    • Duncan Trio, David Sampson (selected movements)
    • Csárdás, Vittorio Monti/arr. James Boldin (trombone feature)
    • Trio, Daniel Schnyder (selected movements)
    • Rondo, from Horn Concerto, K. 495, W.A. Mozart/arr. James Boldin (horn feature)
    • Libertango, Astor Piazzolla/arr. Anna Suechting
    • Finale from William Tell Overture, G. Rossini/arr. James Layfield
    • Flight of the Bumblebee, Rimsky-Korsakov/arr. Micah Everett
  • How often do you rehearse? Once a week for two hours.  Most students are surprised by this answer, and we always take the opportunity when students ask this question to stress how important it is to come into rehearsal having already prepared the music to a very high level. A group rehearsal is not for individual practice, but rather to put together the music as an ensemble. Unless a piece is quite difficult (Jan Bach, Daniel Schnyder, etc.), it really doesn’t take us (or any other professional group) that many rehearsals to have it ready for performance.
  • How long have you been playing your instruments? I’ve been playing the horn for over 20 years.
  • What kinds of scholarships are available for music students? This is a big question, and varies widely depending on the size and resources of a particular institution. At ULM we have good scholarships for both music majors as well as students that aren’t majoring in music but who want to continue playing their instruments in a college ensemble. These awards can include out-of-state tuition waivers as well as other types of scholarships. In addition to music-related scholarships, our university has several prestigious academic scholarships for high-achieving students. This brings me to the next question in this FAQ.
  • What can I do to improve my chances of getting a scholarship or increasing the amount of  a scholarship? If you want to major in music I think you need to focus on two main things as a high school student. The first is reaching the highest level of proficiency you can in your concentration, whether it’s performance, education, composition, theory, etc. For music education and performance you should strive to play (or sing) as well as you possibly can by your senior year. Take regular lessons with a qualified private instructor, and pursue as many different performing opportunities as you can, not just All-State band or orchestra. Form a chamber group, and request coaching from local university faculty or symphony musicians. For some specific ideas on what to practice, check out this post. If you want to major in music theory or composition, you should already have some experience in both areas by the time you go to college. Take responsibility for your education; go online and find help, or better yet, reach out to area teachers and ask for their input. The second area of focus is your grades. Grades matter! No matter how talented you are, there are very few music schools that will accept you (or award a scholarship) if your grades are poor. If your GPA is suffering be proactive and take the proper steps to improve it: ask for extra help from your teachers or seek out tutoring services in the community. Trust me, earning good grades will pay off when it comes time to apply for college scholarships and financial aid.

There are lots of other questions I could add, but these cover the major concerns I’ve heard from hundreds of students in dozens of high schools. Is there a question you think should be on this FAQ? Feel free to comment below.

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